tv 2020 ABC March 10, 2017 10:01pm-11:00pm PST
i don't want to talk to you! >> why not? >> because i don't like you. >> tonight, a yearlong "20/20" investigation that led to this unbelievable parking lot meltdown. a man accused of keeping teenagers almost imprisoned. >> i can't stop seeing their faces, hearing their crying. >> at the camp where their parents put them to change their sexuality. camps trying to pray away the gay. but tonight, the teen who managed to escape. the retired cop who exposed a
nightma nightmare. and tv star jeremy jordan, coming to the rescue of his cousin. >> they were taking drastic measures and putting her away for being gay. >> good evening. i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. tonight, here, our "20/20" cameras going undercover to investigate the controversial use of gay therapy, banned in five states. >> and what brian ross discovered for camp counselors using the cloak of god and religion to get away with what many see as outright abuse. let us know what you think on facebook and twitter, as we take you into a hidden world.
>> in three-quarters of a mile, turn left onto county road 87. >> i know we talked on the phone previously. >> yes, ma'am. >> and you know that my main concern is that my son believes he's a homosexual. >> take a slight left turn on to rural road. >> reporter: we found what we were looking for down a county road in alabama, the blessed hope boys' academy. >> where's brother gary? brother gary. >> i think he's in the office. >> okay, thank you. ♪ >> reporter: a place where a christian pastor will tell our "20/20" undercover investigators that with a bible and sometimes a belt he knows how to deal with teenagers who consider themselves gay. >> it's going against the word of god. it is not biblically right. >> reporter: it is just one of a number of places discovered by abc news in a yearlong investigation, some operating with brutality, and others with just therapy, practicing a
notion denounced by leading medical groups that gay teens can choose to change their sexuality. >> for every camp like this, there are 100 more that nobody knows about, that nobody's exposing on tv. >> reporter: including one place run by men who call themselves christian pastors with a track record of cruelty. >> these are not religious people, these are people using religion as a weapon against these kids for further abuse. >> reporter: the first leads in our investigation came months earlier, from two gay teens who say they had been held against their will in so-called christian camps or academies. one, a 16-year old boy who arrived in new york on a late night bus. lucas greenfield, telling us he had just escaped from one of the camps in the south. >> how are you feeling? >> tired, really tired. >> reporter: and the other teen, 17-year-old sarah gibert from a small town in texas, who was sent to a christian boarding
school for counseling one week after she defied her parents and went to the high school prom with her girlfriend. >> their beliefs told them that people who were gay would go to hell. and so i think that the thought of their own daughter not being with them in heaven was probably upsetting to them. >> reporter: in the case of lucas greenfield, he was uprooted from naples, florida, which became his home after he was adopted at the age of 3. lucas was raised in what he calls a christian home, but he says he increasingly came to know he was gay, to his mother's great distress. >> because she wanted me to change into more of what she wanted me to be, which was very christian, very religious, almost like a perfect kid. >> reporter: lucas, trying to find a place where he could be accepted as gay, and sarah, declaring her affection for a girlfriend in texas, both had to face what many gay teens find, a
religious parent who cannot deal with their child's sexuality. >> it's this fear, it's all motivated by fear of somehow disappointing god. >> reporter: susan cottrell is the mother of a gay daughter. she works with other christian parents to help them accept their children as they are. >> they send them to camps hoping to outsource the problem of their kids, and get help for their kid not to be gay. >> reporter: lucas' mother would not agree to appear in our report, but told us on the phone she was only trying to help her son. >> she eventually was like, "you know what? you're going to a program." >> reporter: the first program where lucas was sent was located outside mobile, alabama, in the town of pritchard. it called itself the restoration youth academy, surrounded by barbed wire. >> since i've been at this program, i've come closer to god and my family. >> reporter: for the outside world, the academy used testimonials to promote itself
as a place for troubled youth of all kinds to turn their lives around with prayer and the bible. >> and god also intervened in our life really, really dramatically. >> reporter: now closed, other teens sent here, both gay and straight, say it was a place of torture and abuse, carried out by the so-called christian pastor who ran the boys' facility. >> he claimed to be a straight homophobe, and he said that he would cast out every homosexual spirit in every single homosexual male and female. >> reporter: gaylin wheeler, one of the nongay troubled teens, says he was a witness to how lucas and other boys who were gay were treated. >> they would try to preach to them about how homosexuality is a sin and everything. and if that didn't get through to them then they would resort to alternative methods, as they called it, isolation, beatings, getting whipped with a belt.
i can't stop seeing their faces, hearing the screams. hearing the crying. that's why i don't sleep at night. >> reporter: lucas was only 13 years old when he says his mother left him here in the hands of the pastor whose brutality would emerge once she left. >> he asked her, he's like, "do you mind if we spank your kid?" and you know what she said? "beat his ass." >> reporter: and did that happen? >> oh, yeah, it happened. >> reporter: even worse, lucas says, were these so-called isolation rooms, where he and others were left for long stretches of time. >> i only got let out about once a day to go to the bathroom. and sometimes they wouldn't feed you the three meals they were supposed to. >> reporter: this is worse than any prison in the country? >> oh, yeah. prisons have laws and things they have to follow. this place, it was unlicensed,
nobody even knew it existed. >> reporter: but it turns out someone did know it existed, this pritchard police captain, charles kennedy, who drove out here after a call from the concerned parents of another boy, and discovered what he would call pure evil. >> i thought, "my god. he is here. lucifer is here doing business in our city with these children." >> reporter: 450 miles away, outside hallsville, texas, this is where sarah gibert says she was also being held against her will, a christian facility that claims it helps gay teens. like lucas, sarah felt powerless to resist what her parents arranged. >> and i was kind of in shock for a minute. and then, i started yelling at them and i told them that they couldn't do this. >> reporter: but they did, and she says she was told she would be kept here for a full year, unaware that someone was about
to come to her rescue. her own personal superhero, her cousin and tv star jeremy jordan, outraged that sarah and other gay teens are sent away like this. >> you're telling them, "we don't accept who you are, and we want to cleanse the world of your kind." >> reporter: the tv star and his effort to rescue his lesbian teen cousin. >> i don't want to talk to you! >> reporter: the brutal pastor in alabama who beat the teens under his control. and lucas' daring escape to help bring down his abusers. when we return. but once!! uh, excuse me, waiter. i ordered the soup... of course, ma'am. my apologies. c'mon, caesar. let's go. caesar on a caesar salad? surprising. excuse me, pardon me. what's not surprising? how much money matt saved by switching to geico. could i get my parking validated?
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once again, brian ross. [ train whistle ] >> reporter: at night, locked into a christian camp for troubled youth in alabama, sometimes in shackles and handcuffs, lucas greenfield could hear the train whistles in the distance, and dream of escape. >> there's a train really close to there that actually goes to california. thought safety, thought hope but
thought impossible. i would've done anything to get out of there. anybody would've. >> reporter: lucas says he imagined himself as a character in some escape movie. like steve mcqueen's "great escape" from a nazi prisoner of war camp. like ice cube escaping to fight corrupt politicians. but that was hollywood, and the reality for lucas was bleak, even as the train whistles beckoned. >> every freaking night. it was really kind of depressing. because we never made it out. >> reporter: one year after we first met him, a lost teen sent to the camp and punished for being gay, lucas was now 17, a young man with a new look, but still struggling to get over what he had been through. >> it robbed me of my childhood. most people don't come back from stuff like that.
every day i try to become better, but it almost, like, is impossible. >> reporter: but what kept lucas going, he says, was a determination to do something about the so-called christian pastors he said physically abused him here, especially this one. william knott, feared by the children for his quick temper and special leather belt for whippings. >> he had names for the belts. one of them was "judy," one of them was "sugar mama." >> reporter: karen bazor was a counselor at the camp, who says she quit when she saw the sadistic abuse by knott and others. >> will knott is a sadist. >> you think so? >> i know so. anybody that has names for their belts to whip children with, with their bare bottom, is a sadist. >> everybody was scared of him, because they were afraid if you don't listen to him, he's going to beat you. and it gets worse every time. thrown in isolation, and beaten, and everything else. >> reporter: because? >> because they were assumed to be gay.
>> reporter: gay was a sin? >> gay is a sin. gay is evil. gay is the worst abomination to god. gay is horrible. >> reporter: knott refused our requests to talk about the allegations. so we tracked him down, catching up with him in a restaurant parking lot. where we saw for ourselves how this christian pastor reacts to someone he does not like. >> i don't want to talk to you. >> reporter: why not? >> because i don't like you. get away from me. >> reporter: is this how you treat the young boys? >> this is how i treat you, get away from me. >> reporter: is this how you treat the young boys? >> get away from me, sir. >> reporter: court documents obtained by "20/20" show that before knott came to alabama, he was accused in a lawsuit of what a judge called "medieval torture" at a another christian boys' academy for troubled youth. this one in mississippi. including reports he used an electric cattle prod. >> you don't have a right to do this. >> reporter: i have a right to ask you a question, sir, i want to ask you -- >> no you don't, i deny -- >> reporter: what did you do to those young boys?
knott did not know at the time, but he was about to be taken down, and it would be with the help of lucas greenfield that it happened. so you were thinking, "i'll get you one day"? >> yeah. i knew they were going to get what's coming to him eventually. >> reporter: that day of reckoning began years earlier when the police captain, charles kennedy, showed up here and soon realized something was not right. >> i noticed this. that when the boys were sitting there, nobody was talking, nobody was smiling. they were just too quiet. >> nobody talked. >> reporter: why not? >> they were scared. >> reporter: so he went around asking -- >> everybody for information. and we all said, "sorry. i can't help you." >> reporter: but when he returned some of the children slipped handwritten notes to captain kennedy, pleading for help. "i've seen people get slammed, choked and hit. before it's to late! no one should be treated like this!" >> they were taking a terrific risk. a terrific risk. because things could get brutal
in there. >> reporter: and then captain kennedy says he saw on a surveillance monitor in knott's office, a young boy named austin who was locked in one of the isolation rooms, naked, because he had apparently threatened to kill himself. >> i pulled austin's chair over and i put my hands on his knees. "austin, look at me, what's going on here?" he said, "yesterday, is they took me into knott's office in there. knott pulled out a .380 automatic pistol. and told me that since i wanted to commit suicide, told me told me to put the gun to my head and pull the trigger. mr. ross, you could have knocked me out of that chair with a feather. >> reporter: kennedy says knott admitted to it but said there were no bullets in the gun. >> i literally almost went cold, i could not believe what i was hearing. i knew then that i had crazy people that i was dealing with. >> reporter: so kennedy, on his own, working from home, began to investigate, pulling up the past court records on knott. >> charles kennedy calling.
>> reporter: and urging parents and grandparents of some of the other teens who had been sent there to take action. >> that place just ruined his life. i mean, you know. >> unfortunately he's not the only one whose life has been ruined by these people. >> reporter: but then kennedy told "20/20" he ran into a wall. a wall of indifference from local officials who were friendly with the pastors. >> i had been told that if i continued to investigate this thing, that i would be fired for insubordination. >> reporter: and he says the indifference was present all the way to the statehouse, in montgomery. >> nobody was interested in lifting a finger to save these children from this abuse. none. zero. >> reporter: including, he says, the alabama attorney general, luther strange, who has now been appointed to the u.s. senate. the attorney general's investigator, kennedy says, reported to him that attorney general strange wasn't going to take any action. >> mr. strange's opinion was, quote, "these children are out of state. and their parents don't vote
here. and i don't want to get the churches mad at me. and so we're not going to take on this issue." >> i don't know how he possible could have gotten that word. it certainly didn't come from me. >> reporter: outside his capitol hill office, senator strange told "20/20" he sent two top investigators but they found no wrongdoing. how could your investigators not find anything? >> you know, that's a good question, but i have total confidence in their -- >> reporter: was it a full investigation or just a cursory effort? >> they spent a significant amount of time there to my understanding. >> reporter: in fact, it was only several hours at the camp, according to the lead investigator, who told us he never interviewed any of the boys. with no one able or willing to act, the camp continued to operate for more than three years, its teen captives locked up and beaten, they say, on a regular basis. >> my mind kind of just, like, shut off. it was just like, "okay, well, i'm done." >> reporter: but then, with captain kennedy still on their case, the academy left the town
of pritchard, and moved in with a local church under a new name, inside the actual city limits of mobile. and it only took one parent to complain to the mobile police department before officers moved in. now it was william knott and two other pastors who were in handcuffs, charged with child abuse. and the teens inside, including lucas, were free, finally. >> i live here and this is a humiliation and an embarrassment to think that we have tolerated this. >> reporter: when we come back, the tv superhero, jeremy jordan. and his lesbian cousin, sarah. what it took to gain her freedom. matoid arthritis. because there are options. like an "unjection™". xeljanz xr. a once daily pill for adults with moderate to severe ra for whom methotrexate did not work well. xeljanz xr can reduce pain,
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okay, so, this is a bit of a rush job. >> reporter: actor jeremy jordan was busy filming his role as supergirl's sidekick in the popular cbs series. >> are you crying? >> no. >> reporter: when he got some news that would affect him, the news about his 17-year-old lesbian cousin sarah, who had been sent away by her parents. >> they were taking drastic measures and putting her away for being gay. and she was terrified. >> reporter: it was a cry for help? >> yeah, of course. >> reporter: sarah gibert was being held incommunicado at the heartlight christian boarding school outside hallsville, texas, a well-kept, sprawling ranchlike facility. her parents deny they sent her here because she had a
girlfriend, but heartlight says it is a place of refuge for teens, including lesbians. >> well, we kind of specialize in that now. >> reporter: this is how its owner, mark gregston, describes the work on his website. >> i meet with girls across the country that are struggling in same-sex relationships and i think i've just gained an understanding about how to approach them. >> reporter: and sarah's friends feared that she was about to be put through an ordeal designed to stop her from embracing her sexuality. >> she had no contact with the outside world. they took away her phone, she was just basically in this sort of surprise prison almost. >> reporter: prison? >> yeah. >> reporter: jordan's cousin sarah is one of the unknown number of american gay teens who have been sent away to religious programs. >> as a christian, i believe that the bible teaches that to choose to engage in homosexual conduct is a sin. >> reporter: pastor peter sprigg of the powerful conservative group the family research council says there's no place for brutality,
but insists what he calls sexual reorientation therapy with spirituality can work, disputing leading medical groups and the u.s. surgeon general, which say that such therapy is not effective and may cause harm. >> no, i don't agree with that. >> reporter: you think it is sound? >> i think it is sound. >> reporter: and that it does not harm the people who are put through this therapy? >> that's correct. with teenage boys and girls it's probably the most likely to be effective, because their sexuality is still developing and therefore they're less set in their ways. >> reporter: six months earlier, sarah had been taken by her parents to another christian facility, this one in indiana, for a three-day session with her parents and a christian counselor. >> she kind of just said, "either you change or you don't get to go to heaven," kind of made it, like, an ultimatum. >> reporter: now sarah was stuck at the facility in texas. heartlight says it does not practice gay conversion but does
warn the parents of lesbians, on its website, that "doing nothing only allows her to sink deeper into a lifestyle that god warns against." while sarah says she saw no physical abuse here, she was still desperate to escape. within days, running out to the road to flag down a passing motorist. >> i got into a car with this lady, and she, i guess, put two and two together and figured out that i had run from the boarding school program. and so she just took me back. >> reporter: but help was on the way, thanks to her celebrity cousin jeremy jordan, who told "20/20" he rallied other members of the family to support sarah. >> i was excited. i was like, "yes. we get to have a gay person in the family." my mom always thought it was going to be me. so i was like, sorry. >> reporter: and as small town texas boy who is making it big in show business, this was jordan in the broadway play "newsies." ♪
he set out to use his celebrity to launch an internet campaign to raise money for lawyers to get sarah out. >> and i was like, we have to say something out loud about this. we started a gofundme page and basically told sarah's story. which is the story of so many young, gay teens, especially in the south. and put it out there. >> tonight, family members of a gay teen want her out of a christian boarding facility. >> and within, like, a couple of days, it was being picked up by all, you know, big news sites all around the country and around the world. >> jeremy jordan's plea to save his cousin from an antigay facility. >> kids would be like, "i'm going to ask my mom how much money i can borrow. i'll put my allowance in for this." >> reporter: to help sarah? >> yeah, to help her. >> reporter: but there were also those angry about what jordan was doing to help his gay cousin, against her parents' wishes. >> you know, i can't believe that you're going against this girl's parents. >> reporter: in a statement to "20/20," sarah's parents said the programs they sent their daughter to were loving and could help.
quote, "although we do not agree with some of our daughter's decisions, we love her unconditionally and continue to pursue a close relationship with her." >> it's very insulting to some parents to suggest that if the parent does not think that same-sex attractions are normal and natural and tries to discourage their child from pursuing homosexual relationships, that that's somehow unloving. >> reporter: is there any evidence at all, anywhere, that that works? >> no, no. the evidence is, it angers the child, it drives them to despair. it doesn't make them not gay. that's the one thing it doesn't do, is make them not gay. >> dude, that's not family. family is not about scorekeeping, or who did more. it's just about showing up. >> reporter: like his character on "supergirl," jeremy jordan put family first when his cousin sarah was shipped off. you brought the heat. >> yeah. basically, people were writing to them and threatening to protest outside of their walls,
you know? people were really taking action. >> reporter: and it worked. in the wake of all the public attention, the heartlight christian school sent sarah home. >> i think eventually they just had me leave because people were threatening to come protest and, like, force their way in to get me out. >> reporter: sarah now lives with relatives in austin, near her girlfriend haley, finishing high school, hoping that her parents and friends and neighbors in her small texas town will one day understand. >> at the root of it all was her sexual identity and not being able to truly be who she was. >> reporter: but for other gay teens who don't have a famous cousin, teens like lucas greenfield, they have been on their own. next, we go undercover to learn what teens like lucas went through at a place called the blessed hope boys' academy, a place where counselors first use the bible, and then the belt. when we return. (players, spectators shouting) they say glory awaits at the finish.
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florida. more firm than ever that he was definitely gay, to the outrage of his mother. >> and she said, "look, as christian parents, as people of god, we cannot have you being who you are, your lifestyle of homosexuality. we cannot have that inside our christian house." >> reporter: and within days, lucas was being driven by his mother back to alabama, turned over to another christian academy in that state's secretive network of places available to parents of gay teens. the blessed hope boys' academy, in robertsdale, alabama. >> they can help you. they can change your sinful ways through prayer and the bible. >> reporter: and when you pulled in there, what did you think? >> what the hell? what is this? and i got out of the car. they were like, "oh, you're the gay kid, right?" and i'm like, "great. yeah, i'm the gay kid."
they're like, "well, we're going to change that." and i'm like, "no, you're not." >> reporter: leading advocates of therapy to help teens reject a gay lifestyle insist there are no such places like this one. >> i think this idea of sort of reorientation camps is part of the mythology that has been built up around this. and they really don't exist. >> reporter: they don't exist? >> if you know of any, if you've found tangible evidence of any, i would like to see it. >> where is brother gary? >> reporter: so watch this ded undercover team at the blessed hope boys' academy. inside, a chorus of teens singing hymns. ♪ our undercover team included the actual mother of a gay teen from washington state, accompanied by abc news producer brian epstein. >> well, i'm glad you all made it. y'all have a safe trip? >> reporter: they arrived to meet with the man who calls himself brother gary.
gary wiggins, the executive director of the so-called academy for troubled and disenfranchised youth. >> i know we talked on the phone previously. >> yes, ma'am. >> and you know that my main concern is that my son believes he is a homosexual. >> i've had some boys who come in the program. the parents have told me the same thing you've told me, that he says he is queer. one way or another, we are going to get a handle on it. you know, this boy here claims to be a homosexual. >> during his preaching sometimes, brother gary would say to the boys, "you know, that's just queer. what are you, queer? are you a faggot, son?" >> reporter: one former teacher, rodney pinkston, said he warned lucas when he arrived to be very careful around brother gary. >> brother gary doesn't like the fact that boys would be with other boys here.
if you are that way, don't do anything. >> reporter: but brother gary told us he has a huge record of success with his methods. >> so you get quite a bit of feedback then on how successful this line of redirection is? >> yes, i do. >> and what is your success? >> if i had to guess out of 100, i'd say probably 80. >> reporter: and so what did they do to try to convert you? >> the bible. read these passages about how wrong homosexuality is. write this down 100 times. it's one of the great sins of the flesh. it's evil. >> it's not right. it's going against the word of god. it is not biblically right, and no matter what he says or what anybody else says, it's not right. >> if you ever want to have a relationship with your parents again, you're going to drop this choice that you made. you made the choice to be gay, so now you're going to make the choice to go back to being straight. >> reporter: and lucas says in
the short time that he was here, brother gary moved from the bible to the belt when he resisted. >> "well, you know you got to turn straight, right?" "no. not going to happen." "well, then we're going to try to make you." >> reporter: took a belt? >> yeah, took off his belt and started swinging. "i'm going to beat the gay demon and the catholic occult out of you." >> reporter: those were brother gary's words? >> yes. i had big marks all over my back and my leg. and actually i had them on my arm, too. i had on my hand where i grabbed it. >> reporter: through his lawyer, brother gary said he has never assaulted any young men under his care in any way and requires parents to give written permission to strike their children, what he calls swats. >> i wouldn't do it just because, for one, just because he says he's queer. i'm not going to do that. it's got to get to the point where he is doing something really bad. >> reporter: he calls it a swat. what do you call it? >> i call it child abuse. >> reporter: on a tour of the
facility, brother gary told our undercover team he likes to keep his boys here for a year or two, and charges $21,000 a year. >> we have a doctor and a dentist we use. >> reporter: in the last three years, he took in close to $1 million. >> it's very disturbing to me that one man can be in charge of a whole camp like this, and run it the way he runs it, and has no oversight. >> reporter: under alabama's religious freedom law, neither brother gary nor the blessed hope boys' academy nor anyone working here is required to be licensed or in any way supervised because it is all considered part of a church ministry. >> he's ruling by fear. he can swat them, he can do whatever means it takes, he said, to get compliance. of course they're afraid of him. i call it abusive. it's spiritually abusive, it's physically abusive, it's in many ways abusive. >> reporter: our background
check on brother gary found that gary wiggins has a criminal record going back to the 1990s, including convictions for assault and the sale and possession of cocaine. but wiggins claimed to our undercover team he works closely with the local sheriff, who he said helps round up teens who try to escape from the camp. >> because sometimes they will run. this boy has run on me before. this boy right here. and the law brought him back. >> reporter: but lucas did not need to escape from here. a few days after resisting brother gary and causing so much trouble, lucas was being moved late at night to a new christian ministry across the state line in florida. when the staff stopped for gas and a bathroom break, lucas made his break. >> i waited for the guy to get out of the car. i climbed right over the driver's seat, opened the door,
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>> reporter: i'm brian ross from abc news. when we first met william knott, he showed us the hair-trigger temper that so frightened the teens under his control. >> i don't want to talk to you. >> reporter: why not? >> 'cause i don't like you! >> reporter: but now at the circuit courthouse in mobile, alabama, it was a much different william knott, finally facing justice, on trial along with two others for child abuse at the so-called christian academy they ran. >> they want to bring in these kids from all over the country, far away from their real homes, they keep them there through abuse and coercion.
they're making money off of the families. >> reporter: the case was prosecuted by assistant district attorney keith blackwood. >> this case is very important for mobile county and for alabama and really the country. because these types of, quote, "schools," and i use that very loosely, but these types of places seem to pop up all over the place. >> reporter: and arriving at the courthouse to be a key witness against knott, lucas greenfield, the gay teen who says he was beaten and abused by knott so many times, reunited with the now-retired police captain, charles kennedy, who helped to rescue lucas. >> this is payday. you have the power to tell people what they did, expose the evil that these people stood for. >> reporter: lucas and five other teens, gay and straight, took the stand, coming face to face with the man who they say so abused them. was it difficult to face down will knott? >> at first. >> reporter: why? >> because he tried giving me that little stare, that evil -- that evil little man stare like, "i'm going to do something." but he couldn't do anything.
>> reporter: you told the truth? >> yes. >> reporter: and what'd you say? >> exactly what happened. i told them about the beatings, i told them about the abuse, i told them about everything. the handcuffs. the shackles. the isolation. >> lucas' testimony is extremely important to the trial. the main reason is because he was one of the first witnesses that was willing to tell the truth about what happened. they were being threatened, and lucas was one that finally said, "something can be done this time. we need to tell the truth." and that's what happened. >> mobile county jurors heard from child abuse victims today. >> and testimony in the case resumes tomorrow with more witnesses from the state. >> reporter: after five days of testimony, the case went to the jury. >> it's like a weight lifted off. it brings a lot of peace to me to know that i, what i do is i stand up for what i believe in and what's right and this is definitely something that i needed to do. >> reporter: and then the
verdict, guilty on all counts. knott and the other so-called christian pastors taken away in handcuffs, sentenced to 20 years in prison. a sentence judge charles graddick told "20/20" was more than warranted given the crimes committed. >> very disturbing, brian. >> reporter: and the sentence was severe, 20 years. >> yeah, and i'm not sure it wasn't severe enough. i hope that this sentence goes out across wherever these places might exist to let prosecutors and judges and others know, that these people can be prosecuted and severely punished. >> conversion therapy has been widely discredited. >> discredited practice of conversion therapy. >> reporter: across the country, even for those places where brutality is not an issue, so-called gay conversion therapy remains highly controversial. in washington, senators demanded to know how president trump's nominee for secretary of education, betsy devos, stood on the issue. >> it has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use,
homelessness, and suicide, particularly in lgbt youth. mrs. devos, do you still believe in conversion therapy? >> senator franken, i have never believed in that. >> reporter: but her republican party at its convention last year appeared to tacitly endorse the concept, supporting the "right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children." just like the language the family research council uses to defend the legality of therapy for gay teens. >> i don't think it should be illegal because we allow parents to make a lot of decisions for their children regarding their medical care. we do not delegate to minors the ability to make these adult decisions. >> reporter: you call this medical care? >> well, i call it a form of mental health care. >> so there's a mental disorder they're trying to cure? is that what you're saying? >> well, if someone is experiencing something mentally, like same-sex attractions, that is causing distress, then that's a mental health issue. >> i'm a christian, a conservative, and a republican, in that order.
>> reporter: and the family research council says it hopes efforts to make the therapy illegal will stop under the trump administration. you think they support your view? >> well, i hope they support my view. >> reporter: when mike pence ran for congress in indiana in the 1990s, his campaign agenda included this. "resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." according to the vice president's spokesperson, mr. pence did not and does not support gay conversion therapy. but it is the continued belief that there is a way to change a teenager's sexuality that led to the places where lucas greenfield and others were so abused. >> me liking guys over girls. that's what messed up my whole life. >> reporter: adopted at age 3, essentially abandoned at age 13, and through his ordeal with one brutal christian pastor after another, there was only
one adult lucas would come to trust. >> he showed me that there are still good people out there that will do whatever it is necessary to help you. >> reporter: the alabama police captain who put his career on the line to help, becoming the father figure lucas wishes he had had. >> he went beyond being a police officer, he went beyond being a christian, he went beyond anything. >> reporter: and lucas did not know it, but as kennedy worked to expose what was happening, lucas and others were helping to fill the hole in the captain's heart, after the death of his own son sean from a serious illness. >> i miss him. >> reporter: and in a way this is a mission on behalf of sean? >> that's right, because children should be treated decently. they shoul
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go cottonelle, go commando. and now, a look at a special two-hour edition of "20/20" next friday. the bone-chilling story of the infamous murderer, charles manson. >> digging into the psychology of how ordinary people can be brainwash brainwashed. how can they follow a leader with no remorse? >> he said the first time i came as jesus. now i'm coming as the devil. >> manson has it all. it has glamor, movie stars. >> his goal in life was to become a bigger rock star than the beatles.
>> i never told anybody to do anything other than what they wanted to do. >> and if they wanted to do murder? >> it's none of my business, woman. i'm not a sunday school teacher. >> he said, you can't leave the group. >> the family manson, next friday at a special time. >> it's really going to be fascinating, starting at 9:00 p.m. next friday. thanks for watching. i'm david muir. >> and i'm elizabeth vargas. from all of